Tomoki Nojiri sorry for ‘needless’ Oyu crash

Sportem
Sportem
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The two Honda drivers were both eliminated from the third round of the season when Nojiri rear-ended Oyu on lap 19 of 31 entering the Turn 5 left-hander just after the latter had exited the pits on cold tyres.

Mugen’s Nojiri was seen immediately going over to Oyu to apologise, but the polesitter appeared to be inconsolable as he sat trackside reflecting on a lost opportunity to score a big result with the rebranded TGM Grand Prix team.

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Looking back on the incident, two-time champion Nojiri accepted that he had simply made a mistake while pushing to the limit to find a way by his rival while he had the advantage of up-to-temperature tyres, having already completed his mandatory stop on lap 11.

“I wasn’t planning to overtake him there, rather I was thinking of launching an attack at ‘Gyaku Bank’ [Turn 6],” Nojiri told reporters post-race. 

“I knew he would be watching his mirrors and try to block me, but while thinking I had no chance unless I was right on his tail, I made a misjudgement in terms of the distance to the car in front, and the result was contact. 

“As we were running close together, I may have been sucked into it, but I think even taking that into account it was all the result of my own misjudgement. I misread the situation.”

The crash carried extra significance as Nojiri and Oyu share a cockpit in SUPER GT with the ARTA Honda team, with the second round of that series taking place next week at Fuji Speedway.

Asked about his trackside exchange with Oyu, Nojiri replied: “I just said, ‘I’m really sorry’, but he didn’t want to talk with me and that was the end of the conversation. 

“Over time I am sure this crash will be engraved as one of our memories, and I hope I can have a good discussion with him and battle together in GT with no animosity. 

“To be blunt, it’s something that can happen when you are fighting hard, but I think you have to suppress your own feelings to some extent in order to properly move on from it.”

 

The crash marks Nojiri’s first retirement from a Super Formula race since the final round of the 2020 season at Fuji, but the first of his own making since the 2019 Sugo race.

“I have more experience than I had then, so it’s something I shouldn’t do,” added Nojiri. “Anyway, many things didn’t go well [this weekend] besides the crash. 

“I want to be a complete driver, so I have to work hard for the next race, including that aspect. Either way, it was a needless crash.”

For his part, Oyu was magnanimous towards Nojiri but couldn’t hide his disillusionment at being taken out of a race he felt he still had a chance to win.

“Until the crash, both me and my team were doing everything to perfection, and the pitstop was about the fastest we’ve ever done,” reflected Oyu.

“I think considering the tyre mileage I was able to move forward [and fight Sho Tsuboi and Liam Lawson] but instead it ended like that… 

“I don’t want to blame Nojiri. Especially with the [new] SF23 aero, I think it can be difficult to control things when cars are running close together. I can only say I was unlucky, but considering the pace, and the position we were in at pit out… it’s frustrating.

“I was really banking on this race. We need to show what we can do, so the result was very important. That’s why I wanted to win while I had the chance.”

Although he was deemed by the stewards to be at fault for causing the crash, Nojiri effectively escaped punishment, earning only a 30-second time penalty and a single penalty point.

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